Mr Turner – Review

Published November 16, 2014 by tootingtrumpet
2014, MR. TURNER

No oil painting

Mr Turner opens with a gorgeous shot of windmills in Holland with our eponymous hero looking at the yellow light, taking it all in, the better to express it on canvas. Unfortunately, apart from a few more Tarkovsky-like moments of cinematography from Dick Pope, the gorgeousness gives way to Timothy Spall’s ungorgeous jowly countenance and as gnarly a set of teeth as you will see in 2014. And that growl, deployed almost randomly, starts off as irritating but soon becomes unbearable.

Nor is Turner a particularly pleasant man – in fact, he’s a particularly unpleasant man, arrogant, aloof and with a dismal attitude towards women, even for his time (the early, hypocritical years of the 19th century). I found myself longing for the movie to finish so I could get away from a man I wouldn’t choose to spend two minutes with, never mind a ludicrously stretched out two and a half hours.

Of course, many great artists were appalling individuals (step forward Amedeo Modigliani) and JMW Turner was undoubtedly a genius as a painter, anticipating impressionism both in technique and its subject matter of the emerging modern world. Instead of this being made clear (surely three of those 150 minutes could have been spared) we get little help in locating Turner within art history beyond a bit of sniping at John Constable and some frankly unbelievable scenes (not helped by bad CGI) where he is suddenly inspired to paint the celebrated The Fighting Temeraire and Rain, Steam and Speed etc.

There’s little too that explains Turner’s attraction to middle-aged women from drawn from well below his social station and a curious incident with a beautiful 22 year-old prostitute in which he seemed to have some kind of seizure at the mere sight of her in repose, left me none the wiser as to its significance.

I took my seat knowing that Turner was a great artist who had a thing for working class women and who left his paintings to the nation in a bequest that was only made good a century or more after his death with the opening of the Clore Gallery. I left my seat knowing no more. 

The Imitation Game – Review

Published November 16, 2014 by tootingtrumpet
From 1992

From 1992

There may be people left who don’t know about Alan Turing – miracle code-cracker, father of the Computer Age and victim of anti-gay laws – but there really shouldn’t be after the biography, the novel, the TV adaptations, the pardon, the road… So the challenge for The Imitation Game was to say something new – and, often commendably and sometimes less commendably, it did.

On the downside, the film is anchored not by the race against time, as U-boats sank the convoys that crossed The Atlantic carrying the food that sustained a Britain that was completely isolated off the coast of Nazi Europe, but by Turing’s emotional life, its secrets foregrounded more than those of Hut 8. He loses more sleep agonising about Joan Clark than about Colossus (here renamed Christopher after his dead school paramour, turning Turing into something of a Gore Vidal). There’s also a great deal of focus on Turing’s Asperger’s-like disdain for empathy and jokes, something that seems to surprise the near-geniuses with whom he works (who appear to be unimpressed with his Cambridge Fellowship achieved at 24 – an unlikely story as that is very hard currency indeed in those circles).

So much for the Hollywoodisation of the Turing. Focusing on the film’s many strengths, most of which flow from its slightly surprising faith in its audience, yields a more balanced view of an excellent film. Exposition is largely eschewed – we’re trusted to “get” cryptography pretty quickly and to understand why the work at Bletchley Park is the toppest of Top Secret. We’re also trusted to disentangle the layers of espionage and counter-espionage that provided Bletchley Park with its carapaces of deniability and leak justifications – should they prove necessary. Turing may have thought he was in charge; a old buffer Admiral played by a permanently ruddy-faced Charles Dance certainly thought he was in charge; a wisely off-camera Winston Churchill was in charge; but it turns out that the Sir Humphreys were pulling all the strings (as ever).

Best of all are the two stars’ performances. Benedict Cumberbatch catches the quirks, the arrogance and, most of all, the humanity of a man never at ease with his personal destiny, but entirely at ease with that of his his work. It’s always award catnip to play a troubled real-life character, but one can so easily imagine the standing ovations for speeches that laud a man wronged in his time, but rehabilitated by the movies, as Cumberbatch blinks back the tears cradling his BAFTA / Oscar – it’s going to happen isn’t it?

Keira Knightley, though not exactly a dead ringer for Joan Clarke, bubbles with brightness and decency, a balance for Cumberbatch’s ticks and grimaces and, crucially for the film, credible as both a mathematician and a woman for whom Turing can “care for”. She may be cast partly for the glamour she brings to a film that hardly screams it, but she more than pulls her weight – as does her character, despite the caricature prejudice she faces.

Though the Turing argument was won many years ago, the recent Royal Pardon merely confirming what had long since been established public sentiment, an epilogue rightly points out that 45,000 more men were prosecuted (as Turing was) for, well, being gay. Sod the floodgates argument, we should honour the debt we owe to Turing’s work by pardoning every last one of them in his name – The Turing Pardons. Let the Daily Mail lead a campaign against a war hero who unequivocally loved his country and see how far they get with that one.

Interstellar – Review

Published November 8, 2014 by tootingtrumpet
Not Matthew McConaughey

Not Matthew McConaughey

Earth’s soil is turning to dust, destroying crops and choking the people left trying to hew a living from a land disintegrating beneath their feet. But NASA, literally as well as metaphorically underground due to political expediency, has secretly sent ten astronauts through a recently discovered wormhole near Saturn to jump to another galaxy with planets (and a black hole). Ten years later, little has been heard from them, so a mission sets off after the explorers led by ex-ace astro Cooper (a curiously often inaudible Matthew McConaughey). He leaves behind his super-bright daughter Murph after a bitter parting and strikes out for the sake of humanity.

Christopher Nolan’s epic, intelligent and beautiful new film is wonderful to look at, unafraid of dealing with hard science and a fine addition to the dystopian film / novel (as it acknowledges with a prominently displayed copy of Stephen King’s The Stand on a bookshelf). But it’s (bafflingly) both too long and too short – too long in introducing an obvious villain and too brief in rushing to its set-up of an inevitable feelgood ending. Having invested so much exposition on gravity, time, black holes and relativity in the first 120 minutes, all kinds of stuff just seems to happen in the last 40 or so as time and space are suddenly malleable even to us flesh and blood humans. (And, as ever in this type of science fiction, it’s never quite explained why intelligence so superior to our own can’t just make things easy for us poor saps so in thrall to them).

There’s lots of talk about how it’s impossible to visualise a black hole – ironically much of it while Anne Hathaway’s enormous saucer eyes are onscreen – and an endearingly “human” computer (thanks due to Nolan here for resisting the temptation to make its voice camp, as so many have done in the past), but there are very few laughs in a relentlessly earnest warning tale that might not go down too well in the American Midwest. Michael Caine delivers a pleasing cameo: but do watch out – you know what an English accent signifies in a Hollywood movie don’t you?

So does it work? In a cinema, I’d say yes. The photography pleases the eye, a limited pallet of greys, browns and monochrome black and white lit to allow the eye to rest on the colours shifting on the screen if the brain fancies a timeout from the exposition. The CGI (for once) complements rather than overpowers the action, the servant rather than the master of the director (and there’s plenty of adverts for forthcoming features to show how rare that is these days). McConaughey makes a passable hero, though I couldn’t help but think of Sam Shepard’s dazzling performance in The Right Stuff, the definitive “pilot as hero” in my time – he’s good, but not that good. Jessica Chastain does the pent-up anger and intensity well as adult Murphy Cooper, but she’s outshone by Mackenzie Foy as young Murph, who has to deliver almost all the emotional thrust of the film and does so brilliantly – surely a nomination for Best Supporting Actress should follow.

So, if you’re a Nolan fan or enjoy mass entertainment that doesn’t treat its audience as a group of five-year-olds in their first science class, go see the movie now, in a cinema, with no distractons. If you’re thinking about waiting for the DVD – don’t. Shorn of the spectacle on the big screen, there probably isn’t enough drama nor romance nor plotting to carry 169 minutes in your own living room. Few films could stretch that far – maybe, few films should.

Only When I Laugh — My Autobiography by Paul Merton

Published October 22, 2014 by tootingtrumpet
How's the picture in the attic Paul?

How’s the picture in the attic Paul?

I saw Paul Merton once — at Jongleurs in Battersea in about 1989. He was funny, but not spectacularly so — though the success or otherwise of a comic’s set was determined as much by my beer gauge (about five pints imbibed was perfect: a few either side of that mark, and the reception was less than optimum). He was already a star, but has since gone on to become — wait for it — a national treasure, pulling off the remarkable trick of retaining most of his cultish appeal while working extensively right across the mainstream. Like Michael Palin, he seems both ubiquitous and loved, a granny’s favourite who can still show the fangs when he needs to. It’s clear that this oft-lonely, oft-insecure, only child has never had any problem getting people to like him — a rare and precious gift — but that he doesn’t always like himself, nor others.

If that less than earth-shattering revelation about a funnyman emerges from the text, I’m afraid it’s one of the few. Not that it makes for a bad book or a whitewashing whinge or a backstabbing bitchfest. What we get is a narrative of Paul’s outward life. There’s a lot of, “The phone rang and soon I was on my way to a lunch meeting about a new six-part series about which, I confess, I had many doubts but that proved to be one of the biggest hits of the decade”. It’s not short of, “We fell in love and soon we were renting a little / large flat in Streatham / Fulham”. either. How Paul? How?

This absence of introspection (strange in a man who has thought very hard indeed about how comedy is created in the cracks between what the mind expects and what it obtains) is most apparent in the book’s central interlude in which he is falls prey to paranoid delusions brought on by anti-malaria meds (his explanation) and overwork (my speculation) and spends some time in hospital pretty much run on the along the lines of One Flew Over The Cuckoo’s Nest. The horrors of mental illness are described unflinchingly, but, on his discharge, normal life is resumed as if nothing had happened with little more than a footnote that his marriage to Caroline Quentin fell apart soon after.

Enough of the downside — the upside is plenty steep enough. The best parts of the book are those handful of occasions where he drops a gag into the text (though the economy and almost tangible crafting of the joke contrasts with the somewhat pedestrian description of “things happening” that surrounds it). Writing was hard graft, demanding hours of work (often with longtime collaborator, John Irwin) drawing on an immense reservoir of self-acquired knowledge of classic comedy from radio, television and film, accumulated since early childhood. Though often self-effacing, Merton is proud of his work and his awards and not dishonest enough to hide it.

There are also many warm tributes paid to a Who’s Who of British comedy over the last fifty years: Forsyth, Milligan, Galton and Simpson, Hislop, Parsons and many, many more emerge with an enhanced humanity for Merton’s accounts of his dealings with them, especially his waspish sparring partner from HIGNFY. This warmth is most evident when he breaks his leg in an ill-advised football kickabout and loses money on a cancelled Edinburgh run. A starry list of “alternative” comics show that all the previous stuff about the camaraderie on the road was no soft-soaping, as they club together to raise money to settle his debts with a one-off gig.

Come the last page of the book, one can only be satisfied that things have worked out so well for a man who had to swim against the tide so often — no Footlights conveyor-belt to the BBC for him — his domestic and professional lives balanced beautifully in his mid-50s. But there’s still much more to say, more to reveal, depths hinted at but not plumbed — which is, of course, the right of an author — but nags at the reader. One can’t help wondering what a biographer with psychological insight would make of Merton’s mind, a fecund but not entirely comfortable place and how that has carried him on his unique and still unfolding journey. For that we must wait.

GOING OFF ALARMING THE AUTOBIOGRAPHY VOLUME 2 BY DANNY BAKER – REVIEW

Published October 10, 2014 by tootingtrumpet

DBVolume 2 picks up where Volume 1 stopped… except that it doesn’t really. More so than Going To Sea In A Sieve (reviewed here) Alarming starts out of synch (with a 24 carat gold story that should have been in Sieve) and continues with tales only loosely related to a conventional temporal sequence. It’s more a scrapbook with some of the pages missing and some of the pages a little out of order – but it’s no less enjoyable for it!

There are some wonderful yarns: getting shot, twice; never quite getting to award shows in quite the right gear; Twizzle, the family dog, and his vendetta with the scrapyard mutt over the fence; and many, many more about Spud, DB’s hero, father, muse. There’s more – plenty more and the temptation to throw in a few spoilers here is almost overpowering!

But that is exactly what one would expect from all those radio shows that mine the seemingly inexhaustible seam of “things that have happened to me”. The tales transfer from the mic to the page with no loss of comic timing and with the same curious combination of self-deprecation and glee at being the centre of attention one more time. This is Danny the Showman, Danny the Turn, Danny the Holder of Court – the Danny that many consider a national treasure (sorry, but that is the mot juste) and some find insufferable.

But for all the parading of his working class cultural credentials (and they do ring true – my brother was also shot for a laugh and also laughed it off) and his Floyd Mayweatherly approach to money, the book hints at something deeper, something that he himself has often remarked that comics should avoid, as it’s much harder to make people laugh than to make them cry, or rise in anger, or even just think. When DB does serious, it’s not like Mike Yarwood singing, “And this is me,” so provoking every viewer to switch over. DB is very good at serious.

He didn’t like being called a “Professional Cockney” reasoning, with some justification, that this was merely a veiling of a “Cockney” who should know his place amongst the Oxbridge media types. But how did that passive aggression towards him manifest itself? How was he patronised? Who did it? DB is not really one to name names or dish the dirt – like writing about his brother’s untimely death, that wouldn’t sit with the book’s overarching motif of the hat on the side of the head, luck just turning up to sort things out, life consisting of one sunny day after another. So we don’t really find out.

The relentless optimistic timbre does make the occasional cymbal clash resonate though. There’s a rant (like some of his more celebrated radio meltdowns, it’s directed at faceless managers whose job it is to impose order on what should be chaotic) that underlines his firm ideas about what is valuable in life and what isn’t. There is a real warmth evident in his feelings towards Paul Gascoigne (and a rare moment of regret at the friendship’s fading) and plenty that suggests how the inevitably “troubled” ex-footballer connected to his kind – and some pranks that makes Gazza sound like a Bullingdon Boy had he gone to Eton and not Heathfield Senior High, Gateshead. An acid account of journalistic manipulation of an interview also bares teeth that are otherwise reserved for smiling at life’s crazy coincidences – meeting The Queen in Deptford anyone?

The pages roar by, the laughs keep coming – yes, I lolled on the Tube and two or three times forced my son to read a few pages that were just too funny to miss – but there’s another, more balanced book buried inside these pages with many tales left out (still no giant firework in the LWT lift, my favourite of the many, many stories he has told on the radio). So, before we get to Volume 3 and the cancer, let’s have something that is not more serious – that would be the wrong word – but something that gets beyond the overdeveloped Baker funnybone.

There is a precedent and it comes from one of his heroes – PG Wodehouse. The greatest comic novelist wrote about serious matters in his Berlin Broadcasts.  Hopelessly misjudged though they were, the transcripts balance PGW’s almost pathological need to entertain with a hard-edged account of what it was like to be a POW and why those left at home should not think that their incarcerated loved ones were in agony 24 hours a day (at least not those banged up with PGW). Put to happier purpose, DB’s gift for entertainment could tell us a lot about where the working class of England’s big cities have gone and why so many are disconnected from politics and culture.

That might never come fully formed, but it’s there hidden, somewhere between the cracks of this too-soon-finished rattle through some of the jests and japes of the Daz Doorstep Challenge Man (and so much more).

The Zone of Interest by Martin Amis – reviewed

Published August 25, 2014 by tootingtrumpet

photo posted on post-gazette.comTwenty-five years or so ago, ordering a beer in a Prague cafe, my bad German attracted the attention of the only other English speaker in town, an American, and we got talking. I wasn’t intending a trip to Poland, that slab of plain so unfortunately flung between Germany and Russia, because I had no visa, the London Embassy needing more time and money than I had found convenient. But, following the American’s directions to an upstairs office nearby, ten dollars bought me the entry documentation and I was off on the sleeper to Warsaw and on to Krakow.

Two days later, an old train rattled over the lines left unbombed to Auschwitz. There was no sense of ghoulish tourism then, barely a tourist in those rickety carriages, so I was relieved to fall in with a couple of Dutch guys with whom I shared beers and jokes, imagining the Olympic Games staged like an early round of Miss World in traditional national dress (they didn’t fancy their chances in the 100 meters – the clogs you see). We reached the small rural railway station in laddish good spirits and a handful of us disembarked, the air still, the clouds pushing down a little, the station quiet. There was a guide and we listened respectfully to her introduction as we walked towards the gates, wondering whether they were Soviet impostors or if they had somehow survived all, all… that. The path’s gravel crunched under our sandals reminding us that we had some dominion over this awful space, but, as we entered the nearest building, words wouldn’t form in our mouths and and we could hear only our guide’s soft voice as we read the multilingual labels on the display cases of false teeth, walking canes, children’s shoes. Soon she joined our silence and nothing was said – nothing could be said.

We bore witness to the blocks in which men, women and children were invited to shower in rooms with floors that had no gullies, no drains, no water – but we had long since been overpowered by the scale of the camps, the banality of its evil, the collapse of the comfortingly abstract into something terribly tangible. We sat on the steps of, what, some building or other and still said nothing. Or rather, still could say nothing. Words, language, thoughts even had run out – insufficient to do the job they had done for 25 years or so. One of us eventually broke the stillness and we walked, heads bowed a little, back to the railway station to catch the return train. That evening, we played pool, sank a few very cheap beers and tried to chat up the local girls, but our hearts weren’t in it. We made our farewells and the Dutch lads headed towards Berlin, while I made for Budapest. 

Weaving in and out of The Zone of Influence, Martin Amis’s novel set in a thinly disguised Auschwitz, is the same problem I had – what can language do when set against this vast depravity? Amis feels compelled to write about the Camp, but feels equally compelled to acknowledge that the subject exhausts language, exhausts understanding, exhausts explanation – indeed, exhausts even the question of whether it is explicable at all. What emerges is an unsatisfactory, disgusting book that it also moving and thrilling, worthy of its sources (including, read halfway between my first and now my third “visit” to Auschwitz, Primo Levi’s heartbreaking If This Is A Man).    

Amis gives us three narrators, all with familiar, if re-energised, Amisian voices, their accounts overlaying each other, as events are described by each of them in turn. 

Golo Thomsen is the nephew of Martin Bormann, an photofit Aryan if not quite a photofit Nazi, who uses his connections to cover the fact that his ardour is more directed towards the Fatherland’s big, busty Mädchen than the Fatherland’s thousand year destiny. Thomsen is educated, an intellectual and a cynical exploiter of what comes across his path – until his eye falls upon Hannah Doll, the kind of woman who looks like she might, just might, serve foaming steins of bier in a keller, but is actually the apparently demure, much younger wife of Paul Doll, the Camp Kommandant. 

Doll is the second narrator and a classic Amisian man: small (in every sense); unintentionally funny; drunk on power. His voice drives the narrative forward simultaneously revealing the horrors he supervises mediated through euphemism and a 180 degree skewed perspective, so twisted that even a fanatical dullard like Doll has cause to question. He gets most, if not quite all, of those signature Amis sentences that fizz off the page provoking a guilty laugh, the author catching you again in that smartarse’s net he has used since The Rachel Papers. How about (Doll at an opera) – “It wasn’t like the last occasion, when I became gradually immersed in the logistical challenge of gassing the audience”. BANG! There’s more, a lot more, like that – unspeakable crimes spoken of in the argot of the put-upon middle manager.

The third voice is that of Szmul, a Polish Jew in charge of the processing and disposal of thousands of dead bodies. Intelligent and sensitive, these two traits serve both to keep him alive, as he continually makes himself too valuable to kill, and to torture his soul, as he wrestles with his guilt at not fighting back and his desire to ensure that his story is told. His compromises reach their inevitable endpoint when he sees one of his teenage son’s childhood friends heading for the shower block and intervenes to call in “a favour”.

Other characters, factual and fictional, turn up in the narratives, as the War slides away from German control after Stalingrad, but the Camp is the fixed point of the novel, a crushing, cruel, incomprehensible site of the application of industrial logic to psychotic ends. In an Afterword, the author writes of the impossibility of identifying why the Holocaust was not just prosecuted, but prosecuted with such fervour, to the very end, the Camp lasting longer than the Reich itself, smashed and overrun, its demise long expected, not least by its wretched architects.

By the last page, Amis, like me and the Dutch lads a quarter century gone, has run out of language, explored all the places words can go, exhausted all the accounts of the unaccountable. He has left behind a book that jars the reader with its appalling humour and its sickening scenes and reminds us – not least because German, the language in which the Final Solution was framed, sits so close, so uncomfortably close, to English, the means by which we, a we that has unimaginable military and industrial power at our disposal, explains and manages the world. The Camps may be bounded by the iconography, the politics and the social conditions of Europe in the first half of the 20th century – but not the men. Thomsen, Doll and Szmul walk amongst us – they always have and they always will.

Slaying The Badger by Richard Moore – revisited and reviewed

Published August 20, 2014 by tootingtrumpet
The greatest kit in sports history

The greatest kit in sports history

Bernard Hinault was The Patron of the peloton, the four-time winner, the force of nature – in the unwritten, but understood and fiercely enforced rules of the Tour de France, that gave him rights, rights he was very happy to exercise. In 1985, he had used this throwback to a version of droit de seigneur (and his team leadership, though that seemed almost incidental) to stifle the opportunity of his young team mate, Greg LeMond, to ride for the maillot jaune. Though injured and riding as much on reputation and that ferocious will as physical power, Hinault’s record equalling fifth jersey was secured in Paris: in return, LeMond secured a promise (well, a sort of promise) that Hinault would ride for him come 1986.

Richard Moore’s Slaying The Badger is the story of that unforgettable Tour, a story that holds its mysteries to this day. It speaks of a race that is now gone forever – not just because it was written prior to Lance Armstrong’s confession that sliced cycling history into a “Before and After”, but also because the 1986 Tour is so very French, the domain of radio-free riders grabbing information and instructions on the fly and still rooted in cycling’s long gone culture of riding hard and playing hard. There are no marginal gains here, no diet sheets and no hypodermics either..

The book sets up – aided by long and (mainly) frank interviews with its key personalities – the men whose actions decide the 1986 Tour. What seemed at the time like madness (I watched the nightly Channel 4′s coverage avidly, bewitched by even bit-part players like the great Colombian climber, the wildly attacking Lucho Herrera, never mind the two main men) becomes, if not quite explained, then certainly explicable, as a set of characters who surely could have been invented by Anton Chekhov, emerge to duel in the sun.

Hinault’s force of will is illustrated with the already legendary deeds of winning in the snow of Liege-Bastogne-Liege and the mud of Paris-Roubaix; in his ascent from a ravine into which he and bike had tumbled, rising to use the spare machine to win 1977′s Criterium du Dauphine Libere; in his leadership of a riders’ strike in his first Tour and his willingness, even today, to take the direct physical action French farmers such as he employ to deal with those invading their space. Though a brawler in both the metaphorical and literal senses, Hinault emerges as a man who knows his obligations as much as his rights, not so much a monster as a man who could be monstrous when required.

LeMond is, of course, his opposite. Prone to self-doubt, American and so, so keen to be seen to be doing the right thing, only his extraordinary physical attributes give him anything in common with the Hero of France. Hinault knew that LeMond would win the Tour – as proud a champion as he would only assert that he could handle LeMond so forcefully, so frequently if he felt it needed to be said – but he didn’t want him to win in 1985 and, when the combat went mano-a-mano in 1986, he didn’t really want him to win then either.

Managing these two most alpha of alpha males in the same team was Dr Paul Kochli, a technocrat who logged riders’ data on 80s era computers and preferred to focus on the team rather than the rider – it was not a recipe for harmony at La Vie Claire. Behind him lurked a man for whom harmony was anathema and victory was expected, the larger than life team owner, Bernard Tapie – industrialist, singer, jailbird. Tapie loved the limelight and the Hinault-LeMond saga gave him plenty of that.

1986′s Tour was a combustible mix and it caught fire when Hinault decided to “stir things up” with a series of random attacks to which his team-mate LeMond was not privy (nor was the anglophone half of La Vie Clair). Was Hinault reneging on his promise of a year earlier? Was it really ever made? Was he riding to reduce the field to himself and LeMond to ensure a La Vie Claire man on the top step of the podium supported by another just one rung down? Or did he glimpse a sixth Tour and immortality with just a Yankee kid in the way?

As the book follows the stages of 1986′s Tour, Hinault’s mind games get to LeMond and they get to the reader too. Is Hinault bold and brave, tilting one last time at one of sport’s greatest prizes with the panache of his youth? Or is he cruelly playing every card in his hand against a team-mate to whom he owes, at the very least, a moral obligation to support? In an astute afterword, David Millar’s nuanced interpretation rings most true – but we’ll never really know.

It’s no surprise to learn that the book has been adapted into one of ESPN’s series of sports documentaries as it’s a page-turner full of suspense, humour and no little pathos. It’s also a reminder of why my generation fell in love with the sport, despite its flaws which were to metastasise in the two decades to follow into the obscenity of Armstrong’s bullying, lies and the culture that supported them. Richard Moore’s research, his love of the race and his respect for its riders rekindled memories undimmed by the passage of time (that iconic La Vie Claire jersey hardly fades does it) but also the joy of discovering a sport with so vast a canvas, a sport that so brutally revealed human character and, yes, a sport that was such fun to watch. Hinault may have stirred the race, but the Tour stirred our souls.

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